The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?” December 2015

It’s a new month and you know what that means! Mystery time! We’re sure this month’s mystery image won’t be hard for our intrepid and knowledgeable readers to track down. Ah, but finding out more than the title of the associated book? That’s where the real mystery begins…


As always, comment here with your thoughts and observations of this image, and come back next week for a more detailed exploration of the subject at hand.


  • If it is any help, it seems that the editio princeps was in 1623. This makes it a *very* early English translation. But I found another translation of the book published in the late 19thc. by the Athenian society. This edition proudly claims that it was “Literally and completely translated From the Greek for the first time”. So, perhaps the 16th century translation is an abridged version—
    Or, perhaps, Maybe, maybe, it is really a polemic on contemporary politics disguised as an ancient text? Remember that the original “Secret history” was a muckraking biography of the Emperor Justinian.

    • so many possibilities for such a deceptively simple-looking book, aren’t there? (which is to say, yes to all of the above!)

  • Ah, I can’t believe I made the basic mistake of not checking all spellings…. Ok, I’m not sure what you’re looking for, but here’s what else I can find about John Bark(e)sdale. According to his entry in Plomer’s Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers (1668-1725), Barksdale was a bookbinder and bookseller who was active 1674-1719, and this book leads to his first appearance in the Term Catalogues. In the late 1670s he moved from London to Cirencester. The Folger has two other of his imprints, both sold from the Cirencester location: the 1698 Minister of Cirencester’s address to the dissenters of his parish (149- 625q) and a 1682 selections from Eikon Basilike (149- 083q).

    I could go into a kvetching about how useful name authority records would be to link stationers with variant name spellings, since it’s tedious to search not only variant spellings but the various combinations of initials that many stationers used (in the 2nd book I list above, our guy appears as “J. Barksdale”). In other words, because one cannot search catalog records by individual stationers, rather than by how their names appear in various imprint statements, it’s not always obvious to users who aren’t experts to find all works associated with an individual stationers. (As an aside, this is also true of ESTC, where it is the most annoying, but if it is an STC stationer, the index in the 3rd volume is the way around this problem.)

    • Ah, that pesky non-standardized spelling (like things are really any better today, right?)… Totally agree with you, authority names FOREVER.

    • For what it’s worth, standardized forms of stationers’ names are now being added to Hamnet, and can be searched in the “Name” field, though there aren’t that many yet. See for a random example, with “Paske, Sarah, active 17th century, printer.” We’re setting up an intern project to go back and add headings to Hamnet STC and Wing records that don’t yet have them, and will soon (I hope) have a printer/publisher/bookseller search field that will target those names (the current “Publisher/printer name” search is just a keyword search of the middle part of the transcribed imprint, i.e., the part that comes between the place name and the date).

  • In her book “The Politics of Disclosure, 1674-1725: Secret History Narratives” Rebecca Bullard mentions this work, and suggests that Clement Barksdale, a clergyman and probable relative of John, was the translator. This is based on the strong connection between them around this time – half of Clement’s works between 1675 and 1685 were published by John, and in the same period two-thirds of the works John sold were Clement’s.
    By her reasoning it’s possible that the Folger has another John Barksdale imprint, 143-988q a translation by Clement of Hugo Grotius’s “Of the government and rites of the ancient church”, which has the imprint “London. Printed for the translator, 1675”
    In his comment above Anthony may be right regarding a political motive. Bullard suggests that Clement’s putative involvement may indicate that the work is a “response to the persecutory ecclesiatical policies that were implemented during the reign of Charles II”.

    • yes, indeed! Such a deceptively simple book, that when you start investigating reveals all sorts of interesting tangles. (I think Procopius would approve!)

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